job fair 2019

Ken Cheman, from West Texas, talks to Nuverra recruitment manager Mariel McCoy during the semi-annual Northwestern North Dakota job fair Wednesday night.

With colder weather on the way, soft oil prices, growing supply and shrinking access to capital, there’s been a slowdown in hydraulic fracturing jobs in Bakken shale country.

That, combined with heavy rain that led to road restrictions, kept many workers home today — and helped swell the number of job seekers to at least 650 at the semi-annual Northwestern North Dakota Job Fair at the Raymond Center Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Employers, by and large, said they were pleasantly surprised with the qualifications of potential applicants. Applicants, meanwhile, also seemed happy with the quality of job opportunities.

It was a win-win that put a smile on the face of Williston Job Services office manager Paula Hickel.

“I’ve heard no complaints or concerns from employers or the job seekers,” she said. “I’ve heard excitement from both sides. And from the employers in what they saw today, it was true job seekers with skills, coming in with smart questions and genuine interest in going to work for their companies.”

Among the many job seekers was Ken Cheman, originally from the West Texas area. He had a job with a crew that does hydraulic fracturing, but the sudden lack of work prompted him to dive back into the job market.

“I really liked what I was doing,” he said. “But my old company went from seven to eight fleets. They’re now down to four.”

Those four were having a hard time keeping busy, Cheman indicated.

Each crew in the hydraulic fracturing fleet is generally 12 or so people. One crew will be two weeks off, while the other two crews are working alternating 12-hour shifts.

Cheman said the company was doing its best to keep everyone busy and take care of employees, but he felt the lack of work was like handwriting on the wall.

“They offered us two weeks off with pay,” Cheman said. “It’s a guaranteed 40 hours, so of course you take it, But it’s only 40 hours of pay, and I want to work. I’ll take my chances here.”

Cheman had talked to Nuverra, among other places with driving jobs, trying to decide what he would like to do next.

“I got here pretty late, but I’ve been impressed with the organized layout,” he said. “It’s well mapped out.”

Nuverra’s recruitment manager Mariel McCoy offered Cheman a list of positions with several perks, including a $5,000 sign-on bonus, a $500 fire-resistant clothing allowance, safety boot reimbursement, a $500 housing allowance for those able to meet safety requirements, and several other things as well.

“We just purchased several new trucks for our new Williston location next to Halliburton and Baker Hughes,” she said, indicating the company still sees a lot of work ahead of it.

Drivers and mechanics are the two “hot” jobs at Nuverra, though she would not say how many of each job the company would like to fill.

“That changes based on customer needs, but we are looking for quite a few mechanics,” she said.

Meanwhile, the midstream companies, which transport production by pipelines, are not in a slowdown at all.

Kinder Morgan’s Rick Barltett said steady production is all he can see on the horizon.

“It’s looking good for us,” he said. “Everything that is fracked already still has to collect that production, so we are seeing steady operations ahead.”

Kinder Morgan listed about 21 different jobs, ranging from entry level gaugers and line patrollers to higher level, experienced positions like Operations Supervisor.

“We’ve had a lot of good applications, a lot of very good talent here today,” he said.

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